Author Archives: Mark Steele

Initial Water Delivery

Emergency Water Relief Program (EWRP)

Not without it’s share of bumps in the road, we’re happy to report that the initial water delivery of the EWRP was a huge success.

October 1, 2013
The day started early – about 6:30 AM…

and would wrap up some 17 hours later.  

First, the driver had to be physically shown the driving plan to make sure all 5 villages would receive their water.

Then authorization had to be gained from the water management.

Followed by the long process of filling the boozer truck at the water source.

5  1/2 hours later the truck pulled up to it’s first delivery point, Illaramatack Village.

Multiple trips and into night it continued until all points were reached, Kamukuru being the last stop.

Car mechanical problems; being short-handed; waiting on military trucks to fill; and working until midnight are nothing  compared to the shouts of joy heard as the truck pulled up in the villages to deliver fresh water.


As the tank is being filled, women start showing up to fetch water.
 “God sent” said some of the women.

Here you can see the line developing in Nasemiti.  They arrive and line up their cans, all
filling their cans at the same time so their is no misunderstanding later of who got what.

One of the exciting aspects of the program is the villages’ desire to participate.  The women of the Naserian Community organize payment for their portion of the boozer truck rental.

Your donations help make huge strides like these possible.
This is only one step down a long road to a sustainable future.

Emergency Water Relief Program

Maji Masafi has initiated a phase called the Emergency Water Relief Program to address the short term goal of providing reliable, consistent water while the long term infrastructure is built upon.

During the dry season – August to November – water resources in Magadi are strained, and the few access options to clean water that exist are stretched to the breaking point.

The change in the quality of life when the villages get the clean water they need is noticeably evident to anyone who witnesses it. But that is being threatened because of the huge demand and the lack of infrastructure. The water is not being delivered as regularly as it should be.

We need to take matters into our own hands and help the women of this area continue to implement the program and solve this problem through the Emergency Water Relief Program.

MMI made arrangements to rent a water boozer truck and a driver from Nairobi. Once a week, the driver will take the truck to the main water point in Magadi and fill up one 10,000 liter tank for each village. This process of back and forth from the water source to the villages will take the entire day.

The women of these villages have already shown signs of great progress. They plan to help offset the costs of the service by selling the water for 20ksh for 40 liters. MMI will cover the remaining costs at about $400 per week. The most exciting thing about this plan is that it came from these women, not us. They are personally taking on accountability for their growth, both personally and as a whole – that, in itself, is success in the making!


Women helping women and getting it done


The women have taken ownership of the project right from the beginning. They got directly involved with all aspects from community planning to construction to management and maintenance. They have carried stones and mixed concrete, they have created management plans,maintenance logs, conflict resolution agreements and self governance guidelines. They are empowering themselves to make their lives and the lives of their families better.


The training sessions started out with 10 to 15 participants and in some villages have grown to over 40 participates. This shows what women can do with a little help and support.

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The women have been eager to get involved. Here they are helping to set the security grill and dig a trench for the installation of the water taps trough structure. Soon this first phase of the Nasaru Project with be in full swing with regular water delivery to all of the communities.

Construction Process

Planning – After attending several stakeholders meetings in Magadi MMI came up with the idea of installing 10,000 liter water tanks in some of the villages hardest hit by the drought. Clean water would then be delivered once a week from the Magadi Soda Foundation water boozer truck. Based on community input and analyzing previous projects this was the best short term solution to the crises.

IMG_3355 IMG_3270Materials and delivery – The materials were sourced in Nairobi and delivered to each village by lorry. The metal security grills for were fabricated and the cut stones came from a local quarry.

When the materials arrived at each Village the women and the men would helped unload the materials and the women’s group lenders were charged with securing the materials until they could be put in place.

Platform design – Each tank sits a top an elevated concrete platform. We excavate a shallow perimeter ditch about 12” deep, lay down bed of concrete and build a stone foundation about 2 ½ feet high. The center of the foundation is then filled with local stone and sand. The security grills on top of the stones and a concrete slab is poured over the top of the whole foundation securing the grill in place.

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IMG_3444 IMG_3448 We hire a local Fundi/contractor to help with building the foundation and platform.

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In each Village the women would show up before the days training sessions and collect stones to be placed in the center of the foundation and help with installing the grills.

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When the tanks where delivered the women would pushed them into place.


Start of Training Sessions

Maji Masafi director start training sessions in Ilaramatak

Maji Masafi director Euginia Konya starts training sessions in Ilaramatak.

 A good start: Despite the challenging heat and rain, 30 women turned out for the training sessions. This was very encouraging and more women than was expected.

Euginia introduced the project objectives and explained how and why the project is designed with them taking on a central role. Women introduced themselves and talked about the challenges they have faced with the water crisis and the benefits having access to water would bring to the community. Next they talked about water management, local resources, past projects and how to avoid some of the past mistakes.

The women liked the fact that Euginia wears pants, drives a car and tell the fundis (construction workers) what to do. They were excited to see a woman in charge.

After class we provided juice and bread and the women talked a little more openly about their experience. Some of the hardships that these women endure daily would crush most people. They are really quite remarkable.



Good Partners Make the Difference ! 

MOU Signing

Maji Masafi Initiative and The Magadi Soda Foundation sign a Memorandum of Understanding

A year of planning – When I was there in January 2013 we signed a MOU agreement with Magadi Soda Foundation. Tata Chemicals, the parent company of The Magadi Soda Foundation, will partner with MajiMasafi on the Nasaru Water Project by supplying fresh water once a week from the water boozer truck. MMI will supply the training, materials and project management. The community will supply security and local labor. This was the culmination of a year’s worth of community organization, planning and preparation and signaled the official start of the project.

About Tata – Tata Chemicals has been mining soda ash in Magadi since the early 1900′s. They have forged an unusual relationship with the Masai and have done an incredible amount of community service. They have invested in all aspects of community life such as: building schools, a hospital, providing scholarships, transportation, water projects and much more. We attended some of their community stakeholder meetings and were impressed. Their integrated management style  includes all levels of the Masai community to address and solve problems. They have been very gracious hosts and a great partner in the development and planning of the Nasaru Water Project.


A Baraza – A Great Opportunity

Baraza is a community meeting where all the elders and chiefs get together and discuss community matters.  They usually last all day and cover everything from the water crises to weddings to whose goats got run over on the road.


A great opportunity - Meeting with all the Masai leaders in one place does not happen often because of transportation challenges, so this was a great opportunity. We were first up on the agenda. To be honest I was a little nervous.Typically women do not attend these meetings, but they were present at this one. This was something new for the community. I never know when we go to these meetings who will show up or whether it will be 4 or forty people. So I stay prepared. I told them everyone from Chicago says to say Hey! That brought smiles to everyone’s face and we were off and running.

Difficult and funny - The language barrier makes things difficult. You have to find other ways to get your message across with eye contact, body language and the tone of your voice. These people live in nature so they are very attuned to these things. Once I relaxed I could see and feel them and knew what to say and how to say it. I am passionate about this project and they could see that. They could also see that I believe in the women. I made it clear that if they honored their commitment that I would honor mine. It was a great experience and really helped solidify their support and trust in us.

We are all laughing in the picture because at one point I decided to start speaking Swahili; however what came out was mostly gibberish. LOL – The Masai are quick to laugh once they feel comfortable with you. We all had a good laugh together. Trust me, I’m the subject of much humor which is one of the things I enjoy most.


Sustainability – Women are the Key

Women's group organizational meeting

In this picture we handed out Nasaru Water Project T- shirts. The t-shirts were designed and printed by US volunteers and shipped to Kenya . The women were thrilled to have them. The word got out and at the next meeting some 50 women showed up to participate. A little can mean a lot here.

Why women - Women are the key because they are the ones most affected and the silent backbone of the community. They are responsible for water collection and caring for their families, but with few resources they are basically left to fend for themselves. They walk long distances, are forced to use contaminated water and their children miss school. These are just some of the reasons they are highly motivated to find a solution.

In the spring and summer of 2012, MMI Operations Director, Euginia Konya, met with the women in each village. We conducted a series of interviews and conversations with the women to better understand their situation and find out what they thought were the problems and solutions. We came to understand the conditions that these women faced everyday and used these interactions to help develop a curriculum for the training program. The training and education sessions are specifically designed toaddress the issues that Masai women face. Some of the issues are environmental and some are cultural.


Nasaru Water Project Summary

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       Sustainability                                    Community                                       Partners

Summary – I traveled to Kenya several times from 2011 to 2013. We visited many communities and decided to work first with the Masai community in the Magadi region. They have been hard hit by the 2009/2011 droughts.

Through a series of community meetings we were able to lay out a plan. We designed the program to both promote women’s empowerment and provide clean water to some of the villages hardest hit by the drought.

It became clear early on though that the project needed to happen in stages. The first and short term strategy is the Nasaru Water Tank Project,  laying the groundwork for a more permanent solution.

Sustainability - We believe Women are Key to a sustainable solution.

Community – Talking to the Masai provided a Great Opportunity.

Partnership – Great People to work with.

Personal  story – Why am I doing this?

Background  - The Magadi area has been hit hard by drought. The per-capita yearly income has decreased by as much as 80%. They do get rain a couple times a year but it comes all at once, floods everything and runs off quickly. The infrastructure, if any exists at all, retains only a very small portion of what is needed.

Many have initiated water projects in Oldonyo-Nyokie but they have not provided lasting relief. After the first trip in  2011/12 we realized that a fresh approach was needed. We re-examined all the previous water projects and aspects of life in the Masai Community. As a result we came up with a collective plan that is working.

Our approach with his project is different because we are starting from scratch, building involvement within each village through the training of the women, giving them the support and the resources to be successful and committed for the long haul. Change does not happen with one tank, one well, but over time and through persistence.

Phase I - We are installing 10,000 liter water tanks in five villages, delivering clean water at least once a week and training a group of women in each village to manage the project.

Why am I doing this?

Over the past three years I have found myself voicing this question countless times. Sometimes in moments of doubt but more importantly to check my compass and make sure that this organization embodies the intention and experience that was its catalyst. This is an expression of what I feel about people. And as we are just beginning to share Maji Masafi’s work here, I thought it a good place to start.

My first trip to Africa was to Tanzania to work with the Baobab group building an orphanage. Terri Place, the Executive Director, taught me that to make a difference you have to become a part of the fabric of the country and the people. I came home and searched for Swahili classes. It was through my relationship with Joseph Konya, my teacher, that I decided to go to Kenya.

My plan was to find out about the water crisis in Kenya and other parts of East Africa. I wanted to understand first hand why this problem has plagued them for so long. How could Kenya have six times the water needed for it’s population and yet so many of its people still struggling to get by without it. Being from a construction background, drilling a well just did not seem that difficult.

The trip definitely changed my life. I spent a month traveling all over the country visiting with women’s groups, village elders, public officials, engineers, wild life service, etc, all arranged by Joseph’s family and friends. I realized that there was something missing in the way people had been approaching this situation. The human development and the infrastructure development needed to go hand in hand, but further, the balance needs to shift from an emphasis on the engineering realm to the human one. The solution lay in the people of Kenya.

I was completely captured by the people and the places I visited and the idea of helping the women in these remote villages. They have so much life in them. Every day they struggle to get basic necessities like water, yet they remain so open and welcoming. These people treated me with such respect and displayed an honest desire to make a change in their lives. How could I walk away and do nothing? I knew that I could help. And I’m not talking about trying to change the world, just contribute to the lives of the people that I meet.  If we can’t do that then what else is there? And so, with support from the Konya family and friends and the people of Kenya, Euginia Konya and I founded Maji Masafi Initiative. (Maji Masafi means ‘clean water’ in Swahili).

That founding was a two years ago. We have come a long way but, of course, even as we near to completing our first project have a long way to go.  The process continues to be difficult and yet rewarding. We’ll be sharing our progress here on the blog as well as insights we have a long the way. Hopefully it can serve others who would, like myself, reach out to a distant corner of the earth to try and understand their own humanity while trying to make change.

Mark Steele
President and Co-Founder
Maji Masafi Initiative

Success story #1: Maji Masafi co-founder Euginia Konya
Our pilot project launched January 2013. Learn more
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